Tag Archives: Little Albert

Latest on Little Albert: Not Neurologically Impaired After All?

Now available via  History of Psychology‘s OnlineFirst option is the latest in the ongoing saga over the identity of John Watson and Rosalie Rayner’s Little Albert. Forthcoming in History of Psychology is an article from Nancy Digdon, Russell A. Powell, and Ben Harris challenging the recent depiction of Albert as a neurologically impaired child. Full article details, including abstract, follow below.

“Little Albert’s Alleged Neurological Impairment: Watson, Rayner, and Historical Revision,” by Nancy Digdon, Russell A. Powell, and Ben Harris. The abstract reads,

In 2012, Fridlund, Beck, Goldie, and Irons (2012) announced that “Little Albert”—the infant that Watson and Rayner used in their 1920 study of conditioned fear (Watson & Rayner, 1920)—was not the healthy child the researchers described him to be, but was neurologically impaired almost from birth. Fridlund et al. also alleged that Watson had committed serious ethical breaches in regard to this research. Our article reexamines the evidentiary bases for these claims and arrives at an alternative interpretation of Albert as a normal infant. In order to set the stage for our interpretation, we first briefly describe the historical context for the Albert study, as well as how the study has been construed and revised since 1920. We then discuss the evidentiary issues in some detail, focusing on Fridlund et al.’s analysis of the film footage of Albert, and on the context within which Watson and Rayner conducted their study. In closing, we return to historical matters to speculate about why historiographical disputes matter and what the story of neurologically impaired Albert might be telling us about the discipline of psychology today.

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Who Was Little Albert? The Story Continues…

Little Albert and a rat.
Little Albert and a rat. Source: http://hopkins. typepad.com/guest/images/2007/11/03/tanya8.jpg

For generations, psychology students have been asking the question, “Whatever happened to Little Albert?”, the baby who John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner conditioned to fear furry things back in 1919. Five years ago, it seemed that the question had finally been answered when Hall Beck of Appalachian State University in North Carolina and his colleagues published the results of some intensive archive-snooping. They declared that “Albert B.” (as the baby was called in the original report) had actually been Douglas Merritte, a child who died of hydrocephaly just a few years after the experiment. Now, however, two psychologists in Alberta are disputing that claim, and The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published an article on the matter. Continue reading Who Was Little Albert? The Story Continues…

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New HoP: Columbian Psych, Little Albert, & Binet

The November 2012 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the history of psychology in Columbia, the neurological status of Little Albert, and the work of Alfred Binet in his Sorbonne laboratory (above). Also included in this issue is a piece on how the history of the DSM can be used to teach students about the complexities of conceptions of mental health and illness, as well as a description of an archive for the history of psychology in Spain and an author’s reflection on the process of writing a recent book on William Stern. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Colombian approaches to psychology in the 19th century,” by Gilberto Leonardo Oviedo. The abstract reads,

Colombian intellectuals of the 19th century widely consulted scientific psychology in regard to their political, religious, and educational interests. Colombian independence from Spain (1810) introduced the necessity of transforming the former subjects into illustrious citizens and members of a modern state. After independence, political liberals embraced Bentham’s thesis of utilitarianism and the theories of sensibility, with a teaching style based in induction. Conservatives defended the Catholic tradition about the divine origin of the soul and used scholasticism as a model of teaching. A bipartisan coalition, the Regeneration, incorporated the ideas of modern psychology based on the principles of Thomistic thought (Neo-Thomism). The Neo-Thomists considered psychology as a science of the soul and debated physiological explanations of the mind. The conceptual advances of the period have been trivialized in historical accounts of psychology in Colombia, due to the emphasis on the institutionalization processes of the discipline in 1947.

“Little Albert: A neurologically impaired child,” by Alan J. Fridlund, Hall P. Beck, William D. Goldie and Gary Irons. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: Columbian Psych, Little Albert, & Binet

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New History of Psychology Podcasts!

Christopher Green (left), producer of the podcast series This Week in the History of Psychology (or TWITHOP) and AHP faculty consultant, is back at work producing podcasts on the history of psychology.

Green has just released an episode of what is to be an occasional series, Discussions in the History of Psychology (or DitHoP). In this inaugural episode Vincent (Vinny) Hevern (centre), Henderikus (Hank) Stam (right), and Robert (Bob) Kugelman (not pictured) sat down with Green to discuss the history psychology’s “Third Force,” Humanistic psychology. You can find that episode here.

A further podcast series, History of Psychology Laboratory (or HooPLa!) is also being produced. The first episode of this series tackles the history of the nineteenth century lunatic asylum, and features interviews with noted historians Andrew Scull, David Wright, Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Gerald Grob. The discussion in this episode is led by Jennifer Bazar, and features Jeremy Burman and Jacy Young (all of whom are Green’s graduate students and AHP bloggers). A second episode on the history of mental testing is in the works and a third episode on the history of comparative psychology is in the planning stages.

Finally, Green et al. are at work on a new series, TWITHOP: Shorts. This podcast series will consist of brief (approximately 5 minute) reviews of significant new journal articles about the history of psychology. The first episode of this series is on Fridlund, Beck, Goldie, & Irons’ article “Little Albert: A Neurologically Impaired Child,” forthcoming from the journal History of Psychology (and currently available through APA’s PsycArticles on-line first initiative), with further episodes to come.

You can find these podcasts, as well as Green’s original series TWITHOP, here. Subscribe through iTunes here.

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New Issue: History of Psychology

The February 2011 issue of History of Psychology, the official journal of the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association), has just been released online. Included in this issue are article on the use of the term “socialization,” psychology and pedagogy in late-nineteenth century French medicine, the historical experience of trauma, and a look at the use of unique historical sources in describing the academic freedom controversy surrounding James McKeen Cattell’s departure from Columbia University. Also in this issue, is a note challenging the recent proposal that John Watson and Rosalie Raynor’s research subject Little Albert was in fact Douglas Merritte, the son of a wet nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The evolving vocabulary of the social sciences: The case of ‘socialization’,” by Jill G. Morawski and Jenna St. Martin. The abstract reads,

While the term “socialization” stands as a common and clearly understood term regularly used in social science and lay conversations alike, its history is complex. In the 19th century, socialization was introduced to refer to societal activities or projects, and only in the early 20th century did it gain usage as a term describing psychological processes transpiring within the individual. The architecture of the newer meaning harbored ambitions and problems of modern social science, including ideals of interdisciplinary theory and theoretic resolution of the individual/society dualism. Nevertheless, socialization became a central object of social scientific inquiry after World War II. This significant social scientific object was repeatedly altered: initially representing a vision of conforming citizens who were free from certain troubling characteristics depicted in psychoanalysis and well-suited to democracy, it later was engaged to create a vision of autonomous, resilient, and cognitively active actors able to negotiate a complex social world. Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychology

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New Issue: JHBS

The winter 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has been released online. Included in this issue are four all new research articles, an essay review, and eight book reviews. Among topics addressed in the research articles, are the disciplinary myth of Little Albert (left), neo-Freudianism in the United States, ADHD, and the role of measurement in Gustav Fechner’s work. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Letting go of little Albert: Disciplinary memory, history, and the uses of myth,” by Ben Harris. The abstract reads,

In 2009 American Psychologist published the account of an attempt to identify the infant “Albert B.,” who participated in Watson and Rayner’s study of the conditioning of human fears. Such literal interpretations of the question “Whatever happened to Little Albert?” highlight the importance of historical writing that transcends the narrowly biographical and that avoids the obsessive hunt for “facts.” The author of a 1979 study of how secondary sources have told the story of Little Albert relates his attempts to purge incorrect accounts of that story from college textbooks. He renounces such efforts as misguided and suggests that myths in the history of psychology can be instructive, including the myth that the identity of Little Albert has been discovered.

“The great escape: World War II, neo-Freudianism, and the origins of U.S. psychocultural analysis,” by Edward J. K. Gitre. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: JHBS

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